Israel's mission to eradicate Hamas from Gaza is a formidable undertaking. It is an entity that defies simple categorisation, encompasses religious, social, political, governmental, and militant facets, with a firm connection to acts of terrorism. Regardless of the developments in Gaza, Hamas is poised to retain significant political influence in the West Bank. Israel must come to terms with the fact that Hamas operates subterraneously, quite literally. Over the years, it has meticulously constructed an extensive network of tunnels in Gaza. These underground passages serve as hiding places for weapons and rockets, as well as potential locations for concealing hostages, such as the individuals abducted on October 7. Locating and neutralising these hidden assets is a daunting task, potentially requiring weeks, if not months, to accomplish.
Hamas has diligently prepared for urban guerrilla warfare, hinting at their strategy for future conflicts. Their focus has been on militant endeavours, with little regard for improving the region's economy or enhancing the quality of life for its residents. The welfare of the people of Gaza, including women and children, has not been a priority for them. Consequently, Hamas actively discourages residents from heeding Israeli advice to evacuate Gaza during times of conflict. In fact, they prefer that the population remains in Gaza, as a higher number of civilian casualties can be exploited to garner public sympathy and support for their cause. Tragically, the more Palestinians who suffer harm, the stronger Hamas becomes in framing Israel as a bloodthirsty nation. Israeli authorities need to be mindful of this perilous reality.
Although they have urged Gaza's population to evacuate before launching ground, air, and naval offensives, the residents often lack suitable options for relocation. It becomes crucial for the international community, including the United States, to ensure that these individuals have access to safe havens. Egypt's reluctance to admit them is driven by concerns about Israel's willingness to allow their return, and the fact that some may opt not to return.
If countries like the US and those involved in the Abraham Accords with Israel can provide guarantees for the safe return of the Gazan residents, Egypt may consider complying. The complex dynamics of the Israel-Hamas conflict underscore the need for a comprehensive strategy that goes beyond military objectives and encompasses humanitarian considerations and international diplomacy.